Last year, Athens State University launched an initiative to improve the pathway for students of color to become teachers in Alabama school districts. Data surrounding teaching and the diversity of teacher candidates on a national level shows that male teachers of color are under-represented in the workforce. These findings hold true in the North Alabama region, which spurred Athens State University’s College of Education to develop the Men of Kennis program to help increase the number of diverse teacher candidates and fill the local community’s need for African American and Hispanic male teachers.

Using funds made possible through a grant provided by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE), participants of Men of Kennis could receive scholarships to cover tuition, books, and housing.

In order to help close the achievement gap between white students and students of color, it is important to increase the number of teachers from a diverse race, ethnicity, and gender standpoint to assist in educating students. As part of the Men of Kennis program, participants must agree to a two-year teaching commitment in Alabama, which will ensure classrooms throughout the state are more equitably represented. Research shows the importance of youth experiencing diverse teachers in positions of authority and demonstrating respect to all students, especially students of color. All students in grades P-12 can benefit from having a teacher of color as a mentor and/or role model.

“The primary objective of the Men of Kennis program is to recruit and prepare minority students majoring in education at Athens State University to become highly-qualified, strong teachers and leaders,” said Dr. Darlene Turner-White, Men of Kennis Program Coordinator and College of Education faculty member at Athens State University. “Not only do we aim to give an under-represented population a pathway to a teaching career, but we as a college also aim to step up our efforts to recruit, support, and mentor these men.”

“The Men of Kennis is a long-overdue program which allows and supports men of color to enter the teaching profession in order to impact the lives of students for years to come,” said Keonte Noels, Athens State student and member of Men of Kennis. “This program gives a chance of hope, which may otherwise be unobtainable.”

DeWayne Garth also shared how grateful he is for the program. Thanks to the scholarship opportunities, he will be the first child in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. “Obtaining this degree will give me the opportunity to provide a positive impact on my community. It will allow me to work with children of all backgrounds in the public education system. This will not only help students of color, but it will help all students. It will further demonstrate that men of color, along with all men, are of great value to our communities as well as our nation.”

The Men of Kennis program is currently taking applications for the Spring 2021 semester. The application deadline is November 22. For more information about the program, please visit www.athens.edu/mok.